Monday, 27 February 2012

GFF 2012: The Somnambulists

Inspired emotionally by his anger over the Iraq war, and stylistically by Joanna Kane’s photography exhibition of the same name, Richard Jobson’s The Somnambulists is a sparse, polemical work. In a series of monologues, soldiers step out of darkness to recount their experiences at war, and Jobson strives to imbue each with a distinct voice: the scared squaddie comparing his tour to Call of Duty; the new father struggling to articulate his emotions over a satellite phone; the young medic aspiring to be a doctor. Impressive sound design augments each tale, with battlefield noise and omnipresent hums keeping the audience discomforted - as we should be, when faced with intense suffering in which we are complicit by default. But other directorial embellishments prove distracting, particularly the fractured editing and close-ups of fire-filled eyes; PTSD is one of conflict’s dark legacies, but to universalise it with clumsy symbolism risks stigmatising the very people Jobson seeks to speak on behalf of.

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